After Olympic near-misses, Planica binding mishap postpones Brennan’s medal quest

Nathaniel HerzFebruary 25, 2023
Rosie Brennan does post-race interview with a Scandinavian reporter after her crash in the World Championships Skiathlon Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. (Photo: Nathaniel Herz/FasterSkier)

PLANICA, SLOVENIA — From the stadium at this Slovenian ski venue, Wiggy Brennan watched on the jumbotron as her daughter, Rosie Brennan, raced with the lead pack in Saturday’s World Championships skiathlon race.

Brennan, who trains with Anchorage’s Alaska Pacific University team, was feeling good and gunning for a medal against the best in the world. It’s easy to pick her out, Wiggy said, with her bright orange Rossignol skis.

Then, someone crashed. “And I’m like, ‘Oh God, that’s Rosie,’” Wiggy said. “And then the tears came out. Because I knew she was really targeting this race.”

The 15-kilometer skiathlon was a tantalizing medal chance for Brennan, who over and over came oh-so-close to the podium at last year’s Olympics in Beijing — a fourth place, a sixth place, and another fifth and sixth in two team events.

American fans on Saturday were pulling for her to get some redemption in Planica, and some payoff for sticking with the sport long after others would have retired: Brennan, 34, was cut twice from the U.S. Ski Team, and her first international podium didn’t come until she was 32.

Instead, after vying for the lead, she watched her rivals slip away as she scootered along the trail on one ski — the binding having ripped out of her other ski in the crash.

“I felt great. I’m really sad — this is really hard to swallow,” she said in an interview after the race. “It’s some of the best I’ve felt all year, and it’s a hard way to go.”

Brennan and her mother weren’t the only ones who were disappointed. Hailey Swirbul, another American racing Saturday and one of Brennan’s teammates in Anchorage, flew by as Brennan was picking herself up after the crash.

“Honestly, I thought about taking my ski off and giving it to Rosie when I saw her without a ski out there, because this is a day for Rosie, for sure,” Swirbul said. “But I was moving too fast.”

Jason Cork, one of the U.S. coaches, had one of Brennan’s backup skis around the next bend. But by then, the lead pack was already gone.

Brennan said the idea of dropping out of the race went through her mind.

“But I think for me, when you show up at a championship, you’re here to represent your country and you always give it your all until the end unless, you know, there’s an emergency or something,” she said. “So, I decided to keep fighting to the finish.”

Adding insult to injury, a half-dozen Scandinavian TV and radio stations wanted interviews about her mishap when the race was over.

“I’ve won World Cup races, and I’ve never been asked this many questions,” she said, laughing. “Honestly, that sucks — I think people should be more concerned with the good things and not the bad things. Today is the day we can all forget about.”

Brennan won’t get her next chance at World Championships until next week.

The American coaches had to choose two of their three female world-class sprinters to start Sunday’s team event, and they picked sprint phenom Julia Kern over Brennan to pair with Olympic medalist Jessie Diggins. Whitcomb, the coach, said the decision was based on Kern’s and Diggins’ slight edge in experience racing in tight head-to-head heats.

“It was a tough one,” Whitcomb said.

Brennan still has medal hopes in other events at World Championships — namely Tuesday’s 10-kilometer skate race. Sitting out Sunday’s race might actually be a well-timed break, Whitcomb added.

“Luckily, I have more chances,” Brennan said. “So, I can be thankful for that.”

She also has her mother and aunt supporting her here — the first time in years they’ve been able to travel to watch Brennan compete at a major championships.

“When I finally came out of the mixed zone” — the area with all the reporters — ”I went straight for them,” Brennan said.

Nathaniel Herz

Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply